Food Specials

The 30 Most Notable Seattle Bar and Restaurant Openings of 2019

Il Nido, Dacha Diner, and More
December 20, 2019
Stranger contributor Kara Tiernan called Il Corvo chef Mike Easton's highly anticipated restaurant Il Nido "the new pasta mecca of West Seattle." (Courtesy of @emeraldcityeater)
2019 was packed with restaurant and bar openings, from the tiny Chophouse Row lunch counter By Tae to Il Corvo chef Mike Easton's West Seattle pasta mecca Il Nido. Below, we've compiled a list so you can reflect back on the year (and catch up if any flew under your radar).

This swanky restaurant from James Beard Award-winning chef Jason Wilson of Crush, Miller's Guild, and the Lakehouse and the team behind El Gaucho (known collectively as "Fire & Vine Hospitality) opened beside Pike Place Market in January, with a seasonally-driven menu and a now-viaduct-free view of the waterfront.

Though chef Aaron Verzosa (formerly of Modernist Cuisine and Harvest Vine) and his wife Amber Manuguid opened this restaurant at the tail end of last year in early December, we would be remiss not to include it here. The small, intimate space offers a unique 10- to 12-course tasting menu of inventive Filipino American food with a Pacific Northwest twist, with two seatings each night. Last year, Verzosa told Stranger contributor Kara Tiernan, "My wife and I were very intentional about setting up the space to feel like you're in someone's home. Sitting in the kitchen and taking in that energy is what drew me to cooking, and I'm excited to share that story and experience with the community." The restaurant was also recently featured in an episode of PBS's No Passport Required, which revolved around Seattle's Filipino food community.
Hillman City

Ba Sa
Siblings Trinh and Thai Nguyen opened this modern Vietnamese restaurant (named for a type of catfish frequently used in the Vietnamese dish ca kho to, a Nguyen family favorite and now a signature dish at the restaurant) on Bainbridge Island in September. The two were exposed to the restaurant industry at an early age due to their parents running the restaurant Pho T&N in Poulsbo, and later went on to pursue culinary careers—Trinh trained at New York's Institute of Culinary Education, while Thai cut his teeth at Daniel Boulud’s famed restaurant Restaurant Daniel and returned home to run Pho T&N after his parents retired in 2018. The restaurant serves Southeast Asian-inspired cuisine with French techniques and locally sourced ingredients, along with sake, beer, and seasonal cocktails.
Bainbridge Island

James Beard Award-winning chef Scott Carsberg, who closed his acclaimed, affordable Italian Belltown restaurant Bisato after 20 years of business in 2012, re-opened the restaurant in a new space in Pioneer Square in January after a six-year hiatus.
Pioneer Square

The popular South Korea-based fried chicken chain opened its first Washington location in First Hill this March. The menu includes wings, drumsticks, and chicken strips; salads and soups; starters like takoyaki and fried calamari; main dishes like bibimbap and bulgogi; and sides like onion rings, kimchi, and fries.
First Hill

By Tae
Similarly, this tiny Chophouse Row gem technically opened late last year but is too good not to include. At a small counter that seats only 8, chef Sun Hong serves a $25 omakase during lunchtime on weekdays that includes nigiri, hand-rolls, and whatever else he dreams up. Bon Appetit deputy editor Julia Kramer called it "a hand-roll counter with a surplus of personality" and her "lunchtime happy place," and selected it as one of 50 nominees for the magazine's best new restaurants in the U.S. for 2019. Not only that, but it also nabbed a last-minute mention in the publication's "24 Restaurants We Couldn’t Stop Talking About in 2019": Food writer and Indian-ish author Priya Krishna wrote, "This is by far my favorite restaurant meal of 2019. I’m not sure if it was because I was offered a Capri Sun at the very beginning, or that I ate the best crab dumpling soup I’ve ever had out of a coffee cup, or that I was asked at the end of the meal by the chef if I had actually had enough to eat, but this lunch-only counter-service, omakase-ish restaurant tucked behind a bakery in Seattle completely charmed me."
Capitol Hill

When Jerry Traunfeld's iconic restaurant Poppy closed this summer after 11 years, all eyes were on the space to see what would fill it next. It turned out to be Carrello, an Italian restaurant with freshly made pasta and dim sum-style carts of stuzzichini (snacky Italian bites), antipasti, salumi, and seasonal vegetable dishes from Nathan and Rebecca Lockwood, owners of the celebrated fine-dining spot Altura.
Capitol Hill

Champagne Diner
This summer, Bryn Lumsden, owner of the respected gastropub Damn the Weather, opened Champagne Diner, a charming bar serving elevated diner food alongside natural wine and craft cocktails.

Dacha Diner
Another restaurant that opened in December of last year, Dacha Diner, an airy, light-filled restaurant serving comforting Eastern European and Jewish cuisine, was also nominated for Bon Appetit's best new restaurants of 2019 and was featured in The Stranger's 2019 food and drink guide. If you're looking to up your yolk-porn quotient on Instagram, order the khachapuri—a Georgian specialty consisting of a boat-like bread brimming with fluffy cheese and butter and a runny egg that you mix into it with a fork, then tear apart with your hands and devour.
Capitol Hill

Dochi, a mochi doughnut pop-up hailing from Orlando, opened a store inside the Uwajimaya Village food court in August. Co-owner Jason Le is the brother of GoPoké owner Michael Le, who he's partnered with for this project. Flavors include blueberry pie with pie crumble, ube glaze, cookies and cream with cookie butter drizzle, matcha Oreo, salted caramel and chocolate crisp, and taro with Fruity Pebbles cereal, to name a few.
Chinatown-International District

Eden Hill Provisions
Acclaimed chef Maximillian Petty, who has garnered raves for his inventive dishes like foie gras "cake batter" and crispy pig head "candy bars" at his eccentric, upscale Queen Anne restaurant Eden Hill, opened this more casual spinoff in September. The new space is family-friendly and features modernized French and American favorites. In keeping with Petty's signature whimsy, dishes include kettle corn Brussels sprouts, cauliflower "chilaquiles," braised beef brisket hash with duck fat tater tots, and the "Big Max," Eden Hill's luxe version of a Big Mac with three-week dry-aged chuck ground beef, bacon, lettuce, cheddar, and a secret citrus sauce on challah bread. Plus, diners can shop from a retail section with take-home bottles of wine and to-go portions of Petty's famous foie gras cake batter.
Queen Anne

Eight Row
In August, Chef David Nichols, who has previously worked as the executive chef at Queen Anne Beer Hall and Rider, has opened Eight Row, his debut solo venture, in the former location of Lucia in Green Lake. The restaurant, named in tribute to Nichols's family's cherry orchard in Wenatchee, serves "Pan American" cuisine with a menu centered around the tree fruit seasons and food cultures of Central Washington.
Green Lake

Chef Mutsuko Soma of the wildly popular Japanese restaurant Kamonegi, who earned a spot on Food & Wine's list of best new chefs of 2019, opened a highly anticipated sake bar next door this summer, with creative fermentation projects like miso made out of jalapeño cheddar-cheese bagel. The Stranger's Lester Black called it a "laboratory of weirdly delicious ideas" and a "church to eccentric fermentation."

Chef and restaurateur Brian Clevenger, who's racked up raves for his restaurants East Anchor Seafood and Vendemmia in Madrona, Le Messe in Eastlake, GH Pasta Co. in Denny Triangle and Raccolto in West Seattle, opened this restaurant in the former space of Vine & Spoon in West Seattle in August. Like Clevenger's other restaurants, Haymaker features a mix of freshly extruded pasta, local seafood, and vegetables, but it also adds some dishes like Snake River Farms pork collar and roasted duck, as well as more typical American entrees, such as a burger and a grilled prime New York steak.
West Seattle

Hood Famous Cafe + Bar
Fans of Hood Famous's brilliant purple ube cheesecake and other Filipino-inspired baked goods were thrilled for the spring opening of the Ballard bakeshop's second location in the International District (which was also featured on the Seattle episode of No Passport Required). In addition to co-owner Chera Amlag's well-known sweets, the new location also carries breads and pastries, as well as savory offerings from Amlag's co-owner and husband Geo Quibuyen, like Filipino-inflected quiches with fillings like longanisa sausage and bittermelon. The bar features a coffee program by day and a drink menu with cocktails in familiar flavors like tamarind, guava, and ube by night.
Chinatown-International District

Il Nido
The May launch of Il Corvo chef Mike Easton's highly sought-after Italian spot inside the newly renovated Alki Homestead building was easily one of the most (if not the single most) highly anticipated restaurant openings of the year. Stranger contributor Kara Tiernan wrote, "The ricotta cavatieddi pomodoro is a must, a Roman-style pasta tossed in a simple no-fuss sauce of tomato, basil, and garlic topped with generous shreds of Parmesan. I'm also still drooling over the busiate ragú alla toscano, its thick hand-rolled tubes of pasta swimming in a hearty meat sauce made with sausage and prosciutto."
West Seattle

Kin Len Thai Night Bites
The popular Isarn Thai Soul Kitchen, which has locations in Kirkland and Lynnwood, opened a new bar called Kin Len, which translates to "eat play" and attempts to evoke the late-night street food of Thailand, in Fremont this September. Reviews on Yelp are largely positive so far and praise dishes like crispy pad Thai, boat noodles, and khao soi. There are also some ambitious-sounding Thai-inspired cocktails, like a "Tom Yum Fizz" with rye, sweet vermouth, and house amaro, and the "Old Bangkok," with kombucha and green tea-infused gin.

Life on Mars
This relaxed, 70s-inspired bar from John Richards (John in the Morning on KEXP), Amy Richards, Steve Severin (Neumos, Barboza, The Runaway) and Leigh Sims (Wake Up Productions) opened in June and features "good music, deep comfy booths, a gigantic wall of vinyl, local beers, unfussy cocktails and a plant-based menu." The Stranger's Dave Segal called it a "a paradise for vinyl-loving vegans—and also not a bad place for those not obsessed with analog musical formats and eco-conscious eating." The vegan food menu (designed by chef Joe Ball, who's previously spent time at Flying Apron, Bread & Chocolate in Grand Cayman, and Harlow in Portland) offers dishes like waffle sliders stuffed with a choice of chicken-fried artichokes, barbecue pulled jackfruit, or coconut bacon.
Capitol Hill

Lowrider Baking Company
This cookie company christened in honor of owner Emily Allport's dachshunds opened its brick-and-mortar restaurant in the Central District this May in the former home of Street Treats.
Central District

Lucinda Grain Bar
Chef Edouardo Jordan, who received national accolades and two James Beard awards for his restaurants Salare and JuneBaby, opened his third project, a bar highlighting heirloom grains such as millet, wheat berries, and buckwheat in every dish, in December 2018.

Momosan Ramen
Celebrity chef Masaharu Morimoto, who rose to fame on Iron Chef, opened a location of his acclaimed ramen and yakitori izakaya restaurant Momosan inside the International District's Publix building (also home to Hood Famous Cafe and Bar) in September. The spot features Morimoto's tonkotsu and tsukemen (noodles with broth for dipping), bites like roasted duck tacos in crispy gyoza skin and seared jellyfish with yuzu soy, signature beers produced in collaboration with Rogue Ales, and wines made in collaboration with Mondavi. The Stranger's Rich Smith wrote, "Though I normally prefer to eat ramen alone at a cramped bar while watching K-pop videos on mute, I gotta say the bowl served at Momosan is pretty special. The noodles are perfect—springy but yielding, with a slight bitterness that cuts against the heavy, mouth-coating broth."
Chinatown-International District


One of the most anticipated restaurant openings of the year is sneaking in just under the wire for 2019: Musang, the highly anticipated restaurant from Filipina-American chef Melissa Miranda, soft-opens this weekend in the former space of Travelers Thali House in Beacon Hill. Melissa specializes in Pacific Northwest-influenced, Filipinx-inspired food and previously ran a pop-up under the same moniker, which comes from her father's nickname (he drove a Mustang that was missing a "T" in the decal, and "musang" also means "wildcat" in Tagalog). The restaurant posted on Thursday in their Instagram stories that they are soft-opening through Sunday, December 22. Chef Marcus Samuelsson also hung out with Melissa (and shared a home-cooked meal with her and her family at her house) in the Seattle episode of No Passport Required.
Beacon Hill

Off the Rez Cafe
The veteran Seattle food truck Off the Rez, which specializes in Native-inspired dishes and is known for its famous fry bread and Indian tacos stuffed with fillings like chili and barbecue pulled pork, opened a brick-and-mortar cafe inside the new Burke Museum when it re-opened in October. According to Seattle Met, co-owner Mark McConnell believes it to be the first native-owned brick-and-mortar restaurant in Seattle. The cafe serves the truck's classic menu items, plus coffee, breakfast, and dishes inspired by "indigenous and precolonial food."
University District

This summer, star bartender Erik Hakkinen (formerly of Pike Place's Zig Zag Cafe) opened this romantic new French-inspired Belltown bar, featuring interpretations of the Negroni, old-fashioned, Mai Tai, and Vesper, plus wine, beer, and low-alcohol French ciders. There's also fancy snacks like tinned seafood and crackly, fried-to-order chicharrónes.

The Ruby Brink
This combination butcher shop, restaurant, and cocktail bar opened on Vashon Island in May. The establishment, which had been in the works for nearly two years, is run by Lauren Garaventa (also known as "Lauren the Butcher"), Rustle Biehn, and Jake Heil and prominently features seasonal produce, pasture-raised meat, and house-made pickles and preserves, all sourced from local farms on Vashon. (Previously, Garaventa and Biehn ran the popular pop-up Meat and Noodle Soup Club, while Heil has experience managing the well-respected Multnomah Whiskey Library in Portland.) Visitors can also purchase pasture-raised meat to take home.
Vashon Island

Rupee Bar
Manolin veterans Joe Sundberg, Rachel Johnson, and Patrick Thalasinos opened this Sri Lanka-inspired bar in October. Inspired by Johnson's travels through Sri Lanka and India through her 20s, the menu focuses on small plates such as mutton rolls, kohlrabi salad, naan, and pork curry ribs, along with drinks like the mezcal-based "Crazy Jumper" with tamarind-date chutney and a "Curry Leaf Gimlet" with ghee-washed gin.

Chef Eric Anderson, who previously spent time at Higgin's and Besaw's Cafe in Portland, opened this "wood-fueled neighborhood bistro" serving seasonal fare like charred onigiri and Dungeness crab in Ballard's Sunset Hill neighborhood in February.

Schmaltzy's Delicatessen
Jonathan Silverberg, owner of the latke-sandwich food truck Napkin Friends, opened this much-sought-after Jewish deli in Frelard in November. With a tagline that promises food "steeped in tradition—never stuck in it," guests can expect playful sandwiches like the "Flavor Bomb" (smoked tri-tip, spiced tomato jam, romaine, shaved yellow onion, chumichurri, and manchego on a house-made challah roll), the "Schmaltztastic" (schmaltzy buffalo smoked chicken thighs, apple and fennel slaw, sour cream and onion chips, and pepper jack cheese on challah), and the "Jewish Guilt" (applewood-smoked bacon, lettuce, tomato, smoked gouda, avocado, and peppadew aioli on sourdough). There's also a few latke sandwiches from the Napkin Friends menu, salads, latkes, matzo ball soup, breakfast sandwiches, and bagels with shmears.

Chef Hideaki Taneda, who previously has spent time at I Love Sushi and is an owner of the positively-received donburi restaurant Fremont Bowl, opened this sushi bar in Capitol Hill's Broadway Alley in February. The restaurant serves only coursed meals, including sushi and kaiseki (a traditional multi-course Japanese cuisine) in omakase-style (chef's selections).
Capitol Hill

Windy City Pie
Dave Lichterman's beloved Chicago-style pizza shop, which was previously located inside Interbay's Batch 206 Distillery, opened a new location in Phinney Ridge in April. The location is bigger and family-friendly, and features booths and a full bar, with beverages like the bitter Chicago liquor Jeppson's Malört.

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